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How Olympic Lifting Changed my ED Recovery in College

As a senior in high school who was just beginning ED recovery, going to college was a huge goal. I wanted more than anything to be independent enough in my recovery to enjoy the college experience without having to worry about relapse. When I finally got to college though, I realized that no matter how strong my recovery was the entire year prior, the adjustment was not going to be easy.

On my first day of classes I went to get breakfast on my own and the dining hall was practically empty. Why was I the only one getting breakfast? Where was everyone else? In addition, the dining hall was set up so that food items cost different amounts by either their weight or by the different food groups that were present on your plate. I can’t even recall how many times I heard or saw other students take as little food as possible in order to “save meal points”. Why am I eating so much compared to everyone else? Or how many times I asked a friend if they wanted to grab lunch after class and they said no because they wanted to wait till later.

Why am I always the only one who wants to eat? That must mean I’m eating too much.

The voice of the ED swirled through my brain constantly. Even though I knew that just because people weren’t always eating around me didn’t mean that they weren’t eating at all, my ED found ways to twist every single situation around food to thoughts of restriction and compensation through exercise. If it was just what everyone else around me was doing, how could it possibly be bad for me?

Nevermind the battle going on in my brain, I was dealing with stressful college classes, making friends, and adjusting to living on my own for the first time. Everything felt exhausting; I needed something that would give me the motivation everyday to choose recovery over restriction, despite being surrounded by triggers. This was when I started Olympic Lifting.

Although I already learned the basics of the Olympic Lifts over the summer, I was too intimidated to do those kinds of movements at the school gym. What if I wasn’t doing it right? There’s no way I can lift as heavy as the other athletes doing olympic lifts. What if I look like I don’t know what I’m doing? All it took was gaining the confidence to practice one lift, the clean, a couple times for me to realize that I do know what I’m doing.

For people who don’t know what the Clean is, it’s a full body movement where the athlete lifts the barbell off the ground so that it clears and rests at shoulder height. Since the entire body is used for the movement, a strong upper body, lower body, and core are needed to improve at the lift. For the first time since before my ED, I genuinely wanted to be stronger.

Anytime my ED told me, you shouldn’t eat that! I asked myself, what’s the worst thing that will happen if I eat this food right now?- I might gain weight. Is that really such a bad thing though? I want to be stronger and hit new PRs, gaining weight might actually help me reach my goals in lifting and have more freedom with food, which is a recovery goal as well.

My entire mindset was shifted, I felt like I had a reason to fight my ED again.

Having goals like deadlifting more than 150 lbs, going on a backpacking trip in Colorado, or running the Boston Marathon with my dad are all things I won’t be able to do unless I’m recovered from my ED. There is so much more to life than having the “perfect body”; I’m done letting my ED control me.

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